Category: People


Follow-up

So I think I’ve noticed the main difference between those who seem to have jobs land in their feet and those who can’t seem to get a foot in the door:

Tenacity.

This doesn’t mean they apply to a lot of places, or even just that they do a follow-up email or call (though that’s definitely part of it); it’s that they are tenacious without even thinking about it; that they’re just naturally inclined to take interest and stay engaged with the appropriate people around them.

For Example, while I of course don’t have any gaming job offers yet, I’ve had two startup job offers and one unpaid gaming internship offer – and that’s without sending out a single application.  Why?  I really think it’s because I just work to stay in touch with people, to stay at least moderately interested in what they are doing, and to offer them some value in exchange.  And these aren’t relationships that arose overnight; there were developed over years.   But even now, as I work to change career, I tell everyone who asks, just in case they may have good advice.   When I was working Inside Social Apps, I definitely should have done more of this, and I’m regretting it now.  But that said, I don’t give a second thought to reaching out regardless.  I’ve heard others say “Oh, but so much time has past” or “I don’t want to bother them” or “They probably don’t remember me” and man does it piss me off.  Who cares?  What do you have to lose (aside from potential work if you don’t do it.)

So while I’m unemployed – but not desperate for work – I’m trying to say yes to every meeting, every phone call, and every opportunity; at least for now.  I’m following up more diligently than I ever have, and trying to help people find others to hire if I’m not the right fit.  And even when I do find work, I hope to keep this up – though in a lesser capacity – because you never know when I’ll be back in the boat.

A Rut Before I Even Start

I recently downloaded the GameSalad client, which is interesting and definitely has gotten me thinking about digital games I’d like to create – not just the stories but the actual mechanics that go into them.  It’s fun to figure out how items will affect stats, how actors would interact, etc.  But actually creating those games has made me a wreck.  I’ve found the technology limiting and difficult to wrap my head around; in the end, it just makes me want to learn to code  – which I really don’t think I have the time for.  So I start to put aside this game design thing.

Then Russ Fan reached out and asked a simple question, “How’s it going on the game design stuff?”  This goes back to an older post of mine on the importance of having partners.  To have someone – who just one month ago was a complete stranger to me and who even now I have only met once – take a moment out of their day to think of my quest and reach out reminded me I do have support.  So I replied with my frustrations, and Russ directed me to another helpful article about Brenda Brathwaite’s time creating analog games when she felt frustrated by her own digital experiences (PS: Brenda is an incredible resource on Twitter, talking about her daily work experiences and situations.  Gives me a nice idea of what designers do.  Am hoping to have a chance to meet her, soon.)

Photo if Brenda's "Train" game, taken for The Escapist. Can you get your "cargo" to the warehouse?

Brenda found inspiration through moments in history where people struggled (as we do games), but that our modern society may not really understand, and creating a “game” experience around that.  I place the quotes as many of these didn’t end up being fun, as we think of fun.  They were making you the slave trader or the nazi leader and asking you to manage your “cargo” – but they made you think and feel and understand.

I hadn’t been focussing on analog games as I wasn’t even sure how to start with them; in my mind they didn’t tell stories like digital games do – they were just pieces and a board.  But I see now that they can – and really, they should.  This brief article alone made me finally actually want to start thinking analog and tell a hand’s on story.

Thank you, Russ & Brenda!

How a Board Game Can Make You Cry” by Jordan Dean

My First Meeting

Today I made what I considered a great first step – I met directly with people in the industry and starting asking questions.  There is no better way to get into a new industry than doing just this.  Not only was I able to get a better handle on truly next steps (not vague suggestions for things way down the line) and ask questions directly to people who live this, but I was able to get closer to a few well-connected individuals in gaming, show them I intend to be serious and respect them as colleagues and hopefully in time as friends, and eventually recruit their help (if they feel it is appropriate) as I improve.  Some of things I learn and pass on to readers (if I have any yet…)

1)  Never Be Afraid To Ask.
This started out with my telling one friend and colleague of mine (David Weekly – Thank you!) about my desire to learn more about the field of game design.  He introduced me to a Mr. Russ Fan (among other wonderful people.)  Now, Russ’ initial reply to the introduction was a bit brusque (he knows this, I called him on it later), but I still followed up regardless of the tone I thought I read, just in case.  Low and behold, he was just having a rough day and was incredibly kind in his next reply.   He singlehandedly gathered almost a dozen young and helpful people in game design/production during a day at GDC and recruited them to meet me for tea this afternoon.  This leads to a sub-lesson:

1.5)  Spend Money.
If people are offering you their time – regardless of whether they end up being helpful or not – buy them something.  This can be as small as a cheap cup of coffee, or as large as lunch (though I suggest you save this for people you know 100% will be helpful).  It is a small gesture, but I always appreciate it when people do it for me.

From my tea meeting, I also was told two incredibly helpful first steps, that other people I have since talked with have told me:

2)  Start A Blog.

Me Typing on a Laptop

When they first told me this, I immediately said “But the point of these meetings is because I don’t know anything right now.”

But everyone has something to say; if you don’t, then maybe you aren’t really fit to tell stories or be in an especially communicative career (not a bad thing, just something to note regarding yourself.)

And so I thought about it, and realized I am doing something that I personally know a handful of people would like to do – not just go into video games, but more generally restart their careers.  But many of them do not out of fear, or more often, a lack of understanding of where to start.  So maybe this blog can help.  I know it is starting off pretty unfocussed and personal, but as I write I’m confident the entries will get more to the point, easier to read, and filled with more lessons.

3)  Design a Game.

A Spread of Cards

Start with a deck of cards - Simple, Cheap, & Handy

And of course, when I first heard this, I immediate replied “But I can’t code!” (Notice I have an excuse NOT to do all of their suggestions – an even more important lesson: don’t make excuses for yourself!).  They then pulled out a deck of cards and said “Start here.  Make a card game.  Or use any playing board and pieces and make something new.”  Brilliant!  This will teach me the general practice of how to think creatively around games, of how to test them with friends and incorporate ideas and advice.  Mind you, it’s still pretty daunting, but I’m at least starting to think about it while I ride buses or play board games – how can I make this better.

—-

LESSON(S) LEARNED:

More important than any specific lessons I learned from these incredible folk was the inspiration they gave me.  Take time and meet with people to keep yourself inspired.  And as mentioned above, catch yourself whenever you find an excuse not to do something and ask yourself or others how you can overcome that excuse.

Alec Trevelyan was NOT your friend.

In GoldenEye, Alec Trevelyan was certainly not the best person to trust...

Blarg.  I’m learning quickly that – for every 3 people you meet who want to help you, there is one who wants to get you down.

There are a lot of unhappy people in the world.  People who are dissatisfied with their work, but are convinced they are too old to learn something new, that it is too risky or too hard, or that they are not good enough.  Worse, many of these people will strive to convince you of this to.  They are embarrassed by their own shortcomings, or certain it is not their fault but the world’s fault, and so a universal rule that you cannot get ahead of your place in life.

Now of course, their are people for whom an extenuating circumstance does make it near-impossible to accomplish a dream (a disability, a family illness, financial troubles), but I think for most people, it is just fear and insecurity – and having too many friends just like them, who tell them they can’t.

All of my friends are excited for me, most of my colleagues are too.  But I still get the slow and doubtful “But you don’t know anything about how to make a video game?” or the polite smile and “well….good luck.”  Or even the flat out “You know, that’s a really difficult industry to get into.  If you don’t (know how to code, know how to draw, have extensive training…) you really aren’t going to get anywhere.”

For myself, this just motivated me all the more.  I’m not in a rush to change careers – my current work is great!  It means I have time to get any training I may need, to learn about the industry, and to get to the top like one should – one step at a time.  But for others, I know these sorts of people would bring them down. So:

LESSON:
Make sure you are associating yourself with the RIGHT companions – people who are excited for you and understand why you want to do something and support how you are going to do it.  If someone blows you off, don’t get angry or upset, just let them go and find someone who is willing to help you.

Finding Companions

Owl Guide From Legend of Zelda Series

Kaepora appeared to Link periodically to help when he was in a bind.

Even in single-player games, you can’t get ahead with a few friendly characters to help you along the way.  These people usually can offer directional advice, tips on monsters you are likely to encounter, and new weapons for your menagerie.

We need these just as much, if not more, in real life.  The problem is, they aren’t generally programmed to stand at crossroads or have exclamation points over their heads, and so can be a little harder to locate.  Since making a decision for at least the industry I would like to start learning more about (video game creation), I’ve begun telling the world of my quest.  If anyone asks me “how are things going?,” I’m not hesitant to let them know about my desire to learn more about video game production.  I’ve begun reaching out to near strangers (or complete strangers) to ask for help or any guidance they may have.

And the response has been overwhelming. 🙂

I now have two or three people sending me weekly blog posts to review; within a week I’ve received introduction to the two people I was dying to meet (and thought I wouldn’t until I was much farther along).  For example:

I was recently contact by an old colleague who asked how I was and wanted my thoughts on a few things.  As I had been, I let him know about my thoughts changing industries.  He asked me “Who’s job do you envy?”  To which I quickly responded: “Jane McGonigal and Jade Raymond” – two incredible women who both seem to have work I would love.  he responds almost immediately: “Small world!  I worked with Jade a few years ago, we used to get half-sandwiches together, since we only had half a lunch break.  I’ll introduce you now.”

…what?  I’m about to meet one of the people I admire the most in the industry just two weeks in?  I couldn’t believe it.

LESSON:
It’s hard to enter any new journey alone.  Do not be afraid of or embarrassed by your ignorance (but be sure to recognize your ignorance as well.)  Ask people for help; let them know about what you are doing and what you need.  When people can, they are most often willing to help.